Dominion of Pakistan

Commonwealth realm
Red Ensign Star of India 1947–1956 Flag of Pakistan
Flag of Pakistan
Flag of Pakistan
Flag of Pakistan Coat of Arms of Pakistan
God Save the King
Map of the Dominion of Pakistan
Government Monarchy
King of Pakistan
- 1947-1952George VI
- 1952-1956Elizabeth II
- 1947-1948Muhammad Ali Jinnah
- 1948-1951Khawaja Nazimuddin
- 1951-1955Malik Ghulam Muhammad
- 1955-1956Iskander Mirza
Prime Minister
- 1947-1951Liaquat Ali Khan
- 1951-1953Khawaja Nazimuddin
- 1953-1955Muhammad Ali Bogra
- 1955-1956Chaudhry Muhammad Ali
August 14, 1947Indian Independence Act
- 1947Indo-Pakistani War
March 23, 1956Constitution of Pakistan
Commonwealth accessionyes
CurrencyPakistani rupee
Red Ensign Star of India Indian Empire Pakistan Flag of Pakistan
West Pakistan Flag of Pakistan
East Pakistan Flag of Pakistan

Pakistan (1947-1956) was a dominion of the United Kingdom. George VI and Elizabeth II were the heads of state as King and Queen of Pakistan. In 1956 the Constitution of Pakistan was adopted which made the country an islamic republic.

Background Edit

In August 1947, Pakistan was faced with a number of problems, some immediate but others long term. The most important of these concerns was the role played by Islam. Was Pakistan to be a secular state serving as a homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent, or was it to be an Islamic state governed by the sharia, in which non-Muslims would be second-class citizens? The second question concerned the distribution of power between the center and the provincial governments, a question that eventually led to the dissolution of the country with the painful loss of the East Wing (East Bengal, later East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) in 1971, an issue that remained unresolved in the mid-1990s.

The territory of Pakistan was divided into two parts at independence, separated by about 1,600 kilometers of Indian territory. The 1940 Lahore Resolution had called for independent "states" in the northwest and the northeast. This objective was changed, by a 1946 meeting of Muslim League legislators to a call for a single state (the acronym Pakistan had no letter for Bengal). Pakistan lacked the machinery, personnel, and equipment for a new government. Even its capital, Karachi, was a second choice--Lahore was rejected because it was too close to the Indian border. Pakistan's economy seemed enviable after severing ties with India, the major market for its commodities. And much of Punjab's electricity was imported from Indian power stations.

Above all other concerns were the violence and the refugee problem: Muslims were fleeing India; Hindus and Sikhs were fleeing Pakistan. Jinnah's plea to regard religion as a personal matter, not a state matter, was ignored. No one was prepared for the communal rioting and the mass movements of population that followed the June 3, 1947, London announcement of imminent independence and partition. The most conservative estimates of the casualties were 250,000 dead and 12 million to 24 million refugees. The actual boundaries of the two new states were not even known until August 17, when they were announced by a commission headed by a British judge. The boundaries-- unacceptable to both India and Pakistan--have remained.

West Pakistan lost Hindus and Sikhs. These communities had managed much of the commercial activity of West Pakistan. The Sikhs were especially prominent in agricultural colonies. They were replaced largely by Muslims from India, mostly Urdu speakers from the United Provinces. Although some people, especially Muslims from eastern Punjab (in India), settled in western Punjab (in Pakistan), many headed for Karachi and other cities in Sindh, where they took the jobs vacated by departing Hindus. In 1951 close to half of the population of Pakistan's major cities were immigrants (muhajirs--refugees from India and their descendants).

The aspirations for Pakistan that had been so important to Muslims in Muslim-minority provinces and the goals for the new state these urban refugees had fled to were not always compatible with those of the traditional rural people already inhabiting Pakistan, whose support for the concept of Pakistan came much later. Pakistani society was polarized from its inception.

The land and people west of the Indus River continued to pose problems. The most immediate problem was the continued presence of a Congress government in the North-West Frontier Province, a government effective at the grassroots level and popular despite the loss of the plebiscite. Led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai-i-Khitmagar (Servants of God, a Congress faction), this group was often referred to as the Red Shirts after its members' attire. Ghaffar Khan asked his followers not to participate in the July 1947 plebiscite.

Pakistan also had to establish its legitimacy against a possible challenge from Afghanistan. Irredentist claims from Kabul were based on the ethnic unity of tribes straddling the border; the emotional appeal of "Pakhtunistan," homeland of the Pakhtuns, was undeniable. However, Pakistan upheld the treaties Britain had signed with Afghanistan and refused to discuss the validity of the Durand Line as the international border (see The Forward Policy , this ch.). Relations with Afghanistan were hostile, resulting in the rupture of diplomatic and commercial relations and leading Afghanistan to cast the only vote against Pakistan's admission to the United Nations (UN) in 1947.

The India Independence Act left the princes theoretically free to accede to either dominion. The frontier princely states of Dir, Chitral, Amb, and Hunza acceded quickly to Pakistan while retaining substantial autonomy in internal administration and customary law. The khan of Kalat in Balochistan declared independence on August 15, 1947, but offered to negotiate a special relationship with Pakistan. Other Baloch sardar (tribal chiefs) also expressed their preference for a separate identity. Pakistan took military action against them and the khan and brought about their accession in 1948. The state of Bahawalpur, with a Muslim ruler and a Muslim population, acceded to Pakistan, as did Khairpur.

The maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, unpopular among his subjects, was reluctant to decide on accession to either dominion. He first signed agreements with both Pakistan and India that would provide for the continued flow of people and goods to Kashmir--as it is usually called--from both dominions. Alarmed by reports of oppression of fellow Muslims in Kashmir, armed groups from the North-West Frontier Province entered the maharaja's territory. The ruler requested military assistance from India but had to sign documents acceding to India before that country would provide aid in October 1947.

The government of Pakistan refused to recognize the accession and denounced it as a fraud even though the Indian government announced that it would require an expression of the people's will through a plebiscite after the invaders were driven back. Pakistan launched an active military and diplomatic campaign to undo the accession. The UN Security Council eventually brought about a cease-fire between Pakistani and Indian troops, which took place on January 1, 1949, thus ending the first Indo- Pakistani War, and directed that a plebiscite be held. The cease- fire agreement formalized the military status quo, leaving about 30 percent of Kashmir under Pakistani control.

Partition and its accompanying confusion also brought severe economic challenges to the two newly created and antagonistic countries. The partition plan ignored the principles of complementarity. West Pakistan, for example, traditionally produced more wheat than it consumed and had supplied the deficit areas in India. Cotton grown in West Pakistan was used in mills in Bombay and other west Indian cities. Commodities such as coal and sugar were in short supply in Pakistan--they had traditionally come from areas now part of India. Furthermore, Pakistan faced logistic problems for its commercial transportation because of the four major ports in British India, it was awarded only Karachi. But the problem that proved most intractable was defining relations between the two wings of Pakistan, which had had little economic exchange before partition.

The two dominions decided to allow free movement of goods, persons, and capital for one year after independence, but this agreement broke down. In November 1947, Pakistan levied export duties on jute; India retaliated with export duties of its own. The trade war reached a crisis in September 1949 when Britain devalued the pound, to which both the Pakistani rupee and the Indian rupee were pegged. India followed Britain's lead, but Pakistan did not, so India severed trade relations with Pakistan. The outbreak of the Korean War (1950-53) and the consequent price rises in jute, leather, cotton, and wool as a result of wartime needs, saved the economy of Pakistan. New trading relationships were formed, and the construction of cotton and jute mills in Pakistan was quickly undertaken. Although India and Pakistan resumed trade in 1951, both the volume and the value of trade steadily declined; the two countries ignored bilateral trade for the most part and developed the new international trade links they had made.

The assets of British India were divided in the ratio of seventeen for India to five for Pakistan by decision of the Viceroy's Council in June 1947. Division was difficult to implement, however, and Pakistan complained of nondeliveries. A financial agreement was reached in December 1948, but the actual settlement of financial and other disputes continued until 1960.

Division of the all-India services of the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police Service was also difficult. Only 101 out of a total of 1,157 Indian officers were Muslim. Among these Muslim officers, ninety-five officers opted for Pakistan; they were joined by one Christian, eleven Muslim military officers transferring to civilian service, and fifty Britons, for a total of 157. But only twenty of them had had more than fifteen years of service, and more than half had had fewer than ten years. These men formed the core of the Civil Service of Pakistan, which became one of the most elite and privileged bureaucracies in the world. Members of the Civil Service of Pakistan were the architects of the administrative, judicial, and diplomatic services. They proved indispensable in running the government machinery during Pakistan's first two decades, and their contributions to government policy and economics were profound during the era of Mohammad Ayub Khan. The Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government in the 1970s precipitated a major reorganization and reorientation of the bureaucracy, however, which resulted in a noticeable decline in both the morale and the standards of the bureaucracy.[1]

Constitutional beginnings Edit

At independence Jinnah was the supreme authority. An accomplished politician, he won independence for Pakistan within seven years of the Lahore Resolution and was hailed by his followers as the Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader). As governor general, he assumed the ceremonial functions of head of state while taking on effective power as head of government, dominating his prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan (the Quaid-i-Millet, or Leader of the Nation). To these roles, he added the leadership of the Muslim League and the office of president of the Constituent Assembly.

Although Jinnah had led the movement for Pakistan as a separate Muslim nation, he was appalled by the communal riots and urged equal rights for all citizens irrespective of religion. Jinnah died in September 1948--only thirteen months after independence--leaving his successors to tackle the problems of Pakistan's identity.

Jinnah's acknowledged lieutenant, Liaquat Ali Khan, assumed leadership and continued in the position of prime minister. Born to a Punjabi landed family, Liaquat used his experience in law to attempt to frame a constitution along the lines of the British Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. He failed in large part because neither the Muslim League nor the Constituent Assembly was equipped to resolve in a parliamentary manner the problems and conflicts of the role of Islam and the degree of autonomy for the provinces. Liaquat's term of office ended when he was assassinated in Rawalpindi in October 1951. He was replaced by Khwaja Nazimuddin, who stepped down as governor general; Nazimuddin was replaced as governor general by Ghulam Mohammad, the former minister of finance.

The Muslim League, unlike Congress, had not prepared itself for a postindependence role. Congress had constitutional, economic, social, and even foreign policy plans in place before independence and was ready to put them into effect when the time came. The Muslim League was so preoccupied with the struggle for Pakistan that it was poorly prepared for effective government. Its leaders were largely urban professionals whose political base was mainly in areas that were in India. In the areas that had become Pakistan, its base was weak. Landlords with ascriptive and inherited privileges were uncomfortable with procedures of decision making through debate, discussion, compromise, and majority vote. The Muslim League was a party with little grassroots support, a weak organizational structure, powerful factional leaders, and decisions made at the top. Although Ghulam Mohammad tried to exercise the "viceregal" power that Jinnah had used so powerfully as governor general, concern for office and the fruits of power were more important to most of the politicians than the evolution of ideology or the implementation of mass programs. The effect of this lack of direction was shown most clearly when the Muslim League was routed in the 1954 election in East Pakistan by the United Front--mainly a coalition of the Awami League and the Krishak Sramik Party, led by two one-time Muslim League members, Hussain Shahid Suhrawardy and Fazlul Haq, who ran on an autonomist platform. Other parties established during this period included the leftist National Awami Party (a breakaway from the Awami League), which also supported provincial autonomy. Islamic parties also made their appearance on the electoral scene, most notably the Jamaat-i-Islami.

The Muslim League was held responsible for the deterioration of politics and society after independence and had to answer for its failure to fulfill people's high expectations. There was a rising level of opposition and frustration and an increasing use of repressive laws inherited from the British or enacted by Pakistan that included preventive detention and rules prohibiting the gathering of more than five persons. In 1949 the Public and Representative Office Disqualification Act (PRODA) allowed the government to disqualify persons found guilty of "misconduct," a term that acquired a broad definition. In 1952 the Security of Pakistan Act expanded the powers of the government in the interests of public order.

The armed forces also posed a threat to Liaquat's government, which was less hostile toward India than some officers wished. In March 1951, Major General Mohammad Akbar Khan, chief of the general staff, was arrested along with fourteen other officers on charges of plotting a coup d'état. The authors of what became known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy were tried in secret, convicted, and sentenced to imprisonment. All were subsequently released.

Pakistan's first Constituent Assembly was made up of members of the prepartition Indian Constituent Assembly who represented areas that had gone to Pakistan. The body's eighty members functioned as the legislature of Pakistan. As a constitution-making body, the assembly's only achievement was the Objectives Resolution of March 1949, which specified that Pakistan would be Islamic, democratic, and federal. But the assembly could not reach agreement on how these objectives would take form, raising fears among minorities and concern among East Bengalis. Other important matters remained equally problematic-- the division of executive power between the governor general and the prime minister; the distribution of power between the center and the provinces; the balance of power, especially electoral, between the two wings; and the role of Islam in the government. With the 1951 assassination of Liaquat, resolution of these issues became unlikely.

During the years after Liaquat's assassination, none of these problems were resolved, and a major confrontation occurred between the governor general, Ghulam Mohammad, a Punjabi from the civil service, and the prime minister, Nazimuddin, a former chief minister of united Bengal and now chief minister of East Bengal. Ghulam Mohammad, who relished the trappings of dominance earlier held by Jinnah, asserted his power by declaring martial law in 1953 in Punjab during disturbances involving the Ahmadiyyas, a small but influential sect considered heterodox by orthodox Muslims, and a year later by imposing governor's rule after the Muslim League defeat in East Bengal, not permitting the United Front to take office. When Nazimuddin attempted to limit the power of the governor general through amendments to the Government of India Act of 1935--then still the basic law for Pakistan, as altered by the India Independence Act of 1947-- Ghulam Mohammad unceremoniously dismissed him in April 1953, and then the following year appointed his own "cabinet of talents," dismissing the Constituent Assembly.

The so-called cabinet of talents was headed by Mohammad Ali Bogra, a minor political figure from East Bengal who had previously been Pakistan's ambassador to the United States. Significantly, the cabinet also included both military and civil officials. Chaudhuri Mohammad Ali, who had been head of the Civil Service of Pakistan, became minister of finance. General Mohammad Ayub Khan became minister of defense while retaining his post as commander in chief of the army. Major General Iskander Mirza, a military officer who was seconded to civilian posts, including becoming governor of East Bengal when Ghulam Mohammad imposed governor's rule on that province, became minister of home affairs. The cabinet thus provided an opportunity for the military to take a direct role in politics. Ghulam Mohammad was successful in subordinating the prime minister because of the support of military and civil officers as well as the backing of the strong landed interests in Punjab. The facade of parliamentary government crumbled, exposing the military's role in Pakistan's political system to public view.

The revived Constituent Assembly convened in 1955. It differed in composition from the first such assembly because of the notable reduction of Muslim League members and the presence of a United Front coalition from East Bengal. Provincial autonomy was the main plank of the United Front. Also in 1955, failing health and the ascendancy of General Iskander Mirza forced Ghulam Mohammad to resign as governor general. He died the following year.

In 1956 the Constituent Assembly adopted a constitution that proclaimed Pakistan an Islamic republic and contained directives for the establishment of an Islamic state. It also renamed the Constituent Assembly the Legislative Assembly. The lawyer-politicians who led the Pakistan movement used the principles and legal precedents of a nonreligious British parliamentary tradition even while they advanced the idea of Muslim nationhood as an axiom. Many of them represented a liberal movement in Islam, in which their personal religion was compatible with Western technology and political institutions. They saw the basis for democratic processes and tolerance in the Islamic tradition of ijma (consensus of the community) and ijtihad (the concept of continuing interpretations of Islamic law). Most of Pakistan's intelligentsia and Westernized elites belonged to the group of ijma modernists.

In contrast stood the traditionalist ulama, whose position was a legalistic one based on the unity of religion and politics in Islam. The ulama asserted that the Quran, the sunna, and the sharia provided the general principles for all aspects of life if correctly interpreted and applied. The government's duty, therefore, was to recognize the role of the ulama in the interpretation of the law. Because the ulama and the less-learned mullahs (Muslim clerics) enjoyed influence among the masses, especially in urban areas, and because no politician could afford to be denounced as anti-Islamic, none dared publicly to ignore them. Nevertheless, they were not given powers of legal interpretation until the Muhammad Zia ul-Haq regime of 1977-88. The lawyer-politicians making decisions in the 1950s almost without exception preferred the courts and legal institutions they inherited from the British.

Another interpretation of Islam was provided by an Islamist movement in Pakistan, regarded in some quarters as fundamentalist. Its most significant organization was the Jamaat-i-Islami, which gradually built up support among the refugees, the urban lower middle-class, and students. Unlike the traditional ulama, the Islamist movement was the outcome of modern Islamic idealism. Crucial in the constitutional and political development of Pakistan, it forced politicians to face the question of Islamic identity. On occasion, definitions of Islamic identity resulted in violent controversy, as in Punjab during the early 1950s when agitation was directed against the Ahmadiyyas. In the mid-1970s, the Ahmadiyyas were declared to be non-Muslims by the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1971-77) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), based in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.

During the 1950s, however, the fundamentalist movement led by Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, the founder and leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami, succeeded only in introducing Islamic principles into the 1956 constitution. A nonjudiciable section called the Directive Principles of State Policy attempted to define ways in which the Islamic way of life and Islamic moral standards could be pursued. The principles contained injunctions against the consumption of alcohol and the practice of usury. The substance of the 1956 clauses reappeared in the 1962 constitution, but the Islamist cause was undefeated. Sharia courts were established under Zia, and under Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif in the early 1990s, the sharia was proclaimed the basic law of the land.[2]

King of Pakistan

  • George VI () (August 14, 1947 - February 16, 1952)
  • Elizabeth II () (February 16, 1952 - March 23, 1956)


  • Muhammad Ali Jinnah () (August 14, 1947 - September 11, 1948)
  • Khawaja Nazimuddin () (September 11, 1948 - October 17, 1951)
  • Malik Ghulam Muhammad () (October 17, 1951 - October 6, 1955)
  • Iskander Mirza () (October 6, 1955 - March 23, 1956)

Prime Minister

  • Liaquat Ali Khan () (August 14, 1947 - October 16, 1951)
  • Khawaja Nazimuddin () (October 16, 1951 - April 17, 1953)
  • Muhammad Ali Bogra () (April 17, 1953 - August 11, 1955)
  • Chaudhry Muhammad Ali () (August 11, 1955 - March 23, 1956)


Pakistani Polities

Neighbouring Nations


  1. The Library of Congress: Pakistan - A Country Study, Chapter 1
  2. The Library of Congress: Pakistan - A Country Study, Chapter 1